Too many Nutmeg State seniors risk falling prey to financial fraudsters, and unless our state adequately addresses this problem, it’s bound to worsen.

Quentin Phipps

Medicaid Planning is one of the many areas where bolstering safeguarding measures should be, at the very least, studied. It’s too important of an issue not to address. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly two-thirds of nursing home residents are paid at least partly by Medicaid.

The process of applying for Medicaid can be strenuous. The legal twists and turns and hoops to jump through during the Medicaid planning process makes for a very complicated and intricate form of law.

Here’s where the problem arises: Under the guise of cost-cutting, some predatory companies offer to prepare a senior’s Medicaid application for an individual and advise against hiring a lawyer to cut costs.

However, because the company hired to prepare the senior’s Medicaid application assigns an unqualified employee to provide legal assistance and advice, suggestions made by the non-attorney to the senior in filling out the application are often inaccurate.

Adding insult to injury, due to mistakes resulting from bad advice in filling out the Medicaid application, many seniors still need to hire an attorney to fix errors. This causes an unfortunate, unnecessary, and terrible mess.

Recognizing this mess, other states – such as New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, and Tennessee – have tackled it by effectively making Medicaid planning, and applying for Medicaid, the practice of law.

There are two important dynamics at play here: One, this is yet another policy area where we have an opportunity to be at the forefront of bettering our state for residents, and shouldn’t pass it up. Two, we have to make protecting seniors from financial loss and fraud a top priority.

That’s why I’m encouraging my colleagues in the state legislature to join me in supporting legislation aimed at creating a task force studying ways to protect Connecticut seniors from fraud (HB 6456).

The study will include – but not be limited to – examining whether those who can offer paid planning advice to Medicaid applicants should be required to be barred elder law attorneys.

The rationale: Practicing elder law attorneys are in the know about the ins and outs of legal complexities surrounding Medicaid’s application and planning processes and are bound by professional conduct rules to do what’s suitable for clients, unlike scammers and fraudsters.

If this bill – aimed at finding common-sense solutions to protect seniors from fraud (HB 6456) – is passed by both chambers of the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, it’ll be a win-win for Connecticut.

Quentin Phipps, a Democrat, is a state representative in Middletown (HD-100). He is also a co-chair of the General Assembly’s Aging Committee.

Leave a comment